From the oldest to the newest in one single week... Gardens by the Bay, Singapore's latest and most ambitious investment in green spaces opened for a months ago and has since been wondered and admired over all around the world. Just search the name and it pops up in whichever media you might wish.
Of course I needed to see this bold new park. Substantial and built with enormous resources, it is located on whopping 250 acres between the Marina Bay Sands casino, entertainment and business district and the Straits of Singapore. In addition to large, themed outdoor gardens with the much buzzed Super Trees (more about them in my next post), it also has two large conservatories that showcase vegetation from all around the world.
While I visited, the unrelenting sun kept reminding me about who is the boss in these equatorial areas. After a short attempt, I decided to leave the outdoor areas to another time - if visiting daytime, do condescend to sitting in a large golf-buggy looking vehicle with a roof; you will dearly need the shade it offers. Instead, I headed to the cool and moist Cloud Forest dome, eagerly drinking in the soothing shelter it provided.
The Cloud Forest dome displays plants from tropical mountainous areas from heights of 1000 to 3000 meter. A whole 35 meter high mountain has been built inside it, with water cascading down and creating a misty environment for the plants to thrive. A suspended walkway lingers through the different areas and inside its internal caves; educational signs and multimedia presentations tell about the habitats and the effects of our behaviour on nature - not always a very cheering experience, but then, there's no reason for shutting one's eyes from the sad truth either. Greenery and flowering plants weave their leaves on the sides of the mountain; you can still see the shallow planters their are housed in, but I'm sure in a couple of months they will form an uninterrupted tapestry of varying leaf forms and colours.
It is amazing how a small country like Singapore with just a bit over 5 million inhabitants had the courage and resources to build a green space the Gardens by the Bay. I can't imagine many countries that would put away all millions needed to complete and then maintain the areas; the scale surpasses anything I've seen within the garden area so far, and this is just the beginning - a second part of the gardens will follow in a couple of years. But then, Singapore seems to be seriously committed to its slogan "City in a Garden" and as I noted in my previous post, sees green spaces as an important mean to enrich the quality of life of its citizens. And artificial as it is, Gardens by the Bay is also hoped and expected to create public interest to the remaining mangrove groves and other natural areas of greenery.
As a park, it is the early days for both the Cloud Forest dome and Gardens by the Bay as a whole. Most of the plants, however impressively large when planted, need time to develop their canopies to provide shade and to weave together into a coherent whole. Compared with the Botanical Gardens, the oldest of Singaporean public gardens, Gardens by the Bay gives an absolutely spectacular but at the same time quite hard impression to the visitor; there's too much dramatic architecture and grandeur, too little unattended freedom and soothing greenery. Nevertheless, in my opinion it is an amazing and bold display of the confidence that Singapore and Asia show for themselves and for their future, and therefore I would already call it a "must" for any garden lover visiting or living in Singapore. Just don't forget your sunnies, your hat and your water bottle!